Make a (priority) list and check it twice

Priorities are a fickle thing. Like emotions, and often as a direct result of emotions, they can change and rearrange, even without us knowing. Like most things in my life, I have held onto my priorities with white knuckles, refusing to reconfigure or reevaluate the things that were most important to me.

I have long feared that a shift in my priorities would mean removing the value of one thing for another. But I am constantly reminding myself that just because something ends or becomes less important over time doesn’t diminish what it meant at its height. The fact that it was important will always remain, but it doesn’t have to hold us back from evolving with our priorities.

Climbing the “ladder”

Growing up, I always thought I’d be one of the workaholic people. My worth was very achievement-based and I was very goal-oriented. Specifically, when I decided I wanted to work in news, I really adopted this persona. News is an industry notorious for unexpected hours, long shifts and erratic positions; and I had said that I would never be one of those people who gets burnt out from the job. Cause if you do what you love you never work a day in your life, right?

Right out of college, work was this mythical unicorn I had finally encountered. I worked all the time and I loved it. But then something happened, I realized what I actually love is being with my family, watching Netflix, hiking with my dog and drinking beer. And that, unfortunately, is not a career. An even tougher realization was that I didn’t love news. In fact, I really didn’t enjoy it at all. This core pillar of my identity was struck down and I was left not only feeling like I didn’t know where to go next but like I didn’t know myself at all.

Two jobs later, and I’ve realized that for me, work will never be the singular life-fulfilling, joy-inducing part of my life. There are aspects of every job I’ve had that I do love. I find joy in accomplishing difficult tasks or exceeding expectations. But climbing the ladder is no longer a priority for me. I can be an excellent employee and continue to grow in my profession without having to be the absolute best, who makes the most, at the cost of the other priorities in my life. Working 8-4, Monday-Friday gives me the perfect balance to pay rent and still have a life outside of work.

South Carolina

When I left South Carolina four months ago, I had every confidence in the world that I’d be back. Just like when I left Florida, six years ago, I was convinced I’d never be back. Now, I’m not sure about either. Living in South Carolina was a coming-of-age experience for me. During my time there, I developed so many of the skills and perspectives that drive me now. It was the first place I really felt like I formed a community all on my own. And I’m so grateful for every person who shaped that experience. But being in Nashville has shown me that home is where I want it to be. I have completely fallen in love with this city and this idea that there are a million other incredible places out there in the world, waiting for me to find my home there. 

This realization has allowed me to loosen my grip on the state that stole my heart. My plans to go back at least once a month for a football game has dwindled down to just one trip this year. When weighing my priorities to save money and to enjoy my new home, football games in Columbia started to slide down the list. There was a hesitation in the moment of “who are you and what have you done with the real Mackenzie.” But, it’s just not something that is as important to me anymore. I have found that watching the game on TV and sharing that experience in my new life is more than enough to connect me to my alma mater. 

A Socialite

When I was younger, I performed a lot. I played the violin pretty seriously and was constantly practicing and performing on stages. Being the center of attention was my favorite place to be. Throughout high school and into college, I developed a lot of anxiety, specifically when it came to big crowds or people I didn’t know. It was a foreign concept for me to want to be in the quiet rather than the spotlight, and for a while, I fought it. I didn’t want anxiety to rob me of this part of who I was. I wanted to be the fun, bubbly, confident girl who talked way too much and never met a stranger. But as I got older, I realized that even when I forced myself to be social, like I had in the past, that feeling of being in “my favorite place” was gone. Instead, my new favorite place was in smaller groups or one-on-one, talking about things that mattered. 

Finally saying that I did not thrive in the spotlight, but instead was vehemently terrified of it, was less about making excuses and more about rearranging my priorities. When I went to new places, it was more important for me to make one deeper, authentic connection, then five surface level ones. My acknowledging that my priorities had changed gave me permission to be an introvert. Which in turn actually gave me more confidence in social situations. It wasn’t that I was bad at socializing as a whole, I was bad a being the center of the room. I was uncomfortable being the one everyone knows. And that was completely fine.

Let’s compare lists

I think maybe the most challenging things about priorities is sharing them. Or rather, not sharing them. We connect with people who share common interests or who understand the things that are important to us. It’s natural. It’s human. So what does it mean for relationships when those priorities shift? When the thing that brought you together is no longer important to one of you? 

I know I’ve felt judged when someone “outgrew” something that I wasn’t ready to move on from yet. College anyone…? And I’m sure I have handed down judgment to my friends whose priorities don’t seem to have changed at all. I’m not sure it’s something that ever gets easier, but being aware of it certainly is a start.

In a corner of my heart

I believe that in the corners of my heart are each of the priorities I once held supreme. We may never completely let them go, and in a way, it makes it easier to rearrange when you know they’ve done their job. What pressures are you putting on yourself in order to uphold outdated priorities? Trust me, the load is a lot lighter the more we try to evolve.